19 ways to save the planet: a student guide

Lily Holbrook offers some tips to students on how to do their bit for the environment.

Lily Holbrook
10th October 2019
Image: Marko Verch for Flickr
Peer pressure, effort, time and money. Despite the best intentions, sometimes it can be hard for even the most eco-conscious student to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle 24/7. Here are 19 top tips for saving the planet while juggling student loans, free time and fitting in with your friends.
  1. Since the distressing video of a plastic straw being removed from a turtle’s nostril back in 2015, straws have definitely become the poster villain in the anti-plastic crusade. On a night out it can be easy to feel as though you’re coming across as pretentious when you refuse a plastic straw waving your metal or bamboo alternative, but don’t be afraid to use it. Even if you don’t have an eco-alternative, save battling with loud club music to request no straw and pick clubs and bars that use paper ones.
  2. Here in Newcastle, why not try Grainger Market for unpackaged fruit, veg and other goods. Nil Living is a zero waste store offering a range of products from oats and beans to refillable washing liquid…all designed to help you minimise your plastic waste.
  3. Buy less clothes to save your bank account and the planet. When you find yourself needing a bit of retail therapy, try out second hand stores or why not swap clothes with friends?
  4. Buy boxed washing powder rather than plastic pods.
  5. Lots of students survive on coffee. Don’t get pods or at least if you do, opt for brands where you can take them back to the store to be recycled (such as Nespresso).
  6. Go to climate strikes, get involved with the university Extinction Rebellion group or the recently established People & Planet society.

    Image: Jeanne Menjoulet for Flickr

  7. Forget Tesco or campus meal deals and make yourself a packed lunch. Not only does it save money and single-use packaging, but it’s often a healthier option for you too. (Don’t forget your reusable cutlery!)
  8. Most of us will walk into uni anyway but try to minimise the number of trips you do in a car. Utilise public transport, cycle and walk where you can. You could even use the walking time as an opportunity to listen to environmental podcasts if you want to learn more.
  9. Eat more veggie food. While meat can be expensive, healthy plant-based protein sources such as beans and pulses can often be found for less than 50p per can. Versatile, cheap and good for the planet. What’s not to like?
  10. If you don’t already, make sure you have your own reusable bags, bottles and coffee cups.
  11. Maybe a little on the more expensive side but consider trying Lush shampoo/conditioner/deodorant bars. Lush are well known for their eco-friendly ethos and have a range of packaging-free products, including toothpastes in tablet or jelly form…one to try if you’re feeling experimental!
  12. This may come as a surprise to a lot of students, but Fairy Liquid literally says ‘Harmful to aquatic life with long-lasting effects’ on the back of the bottle. Try switching to an eco-friendly brand such as Ecover so you can wash up knowing you’re being kind to our fishy friends.
  13. It’s no secret that the Amazon is in crisis. Give the rainforest a helping hand and reduce demand for its precious resources by using recyclable paper or going paperless. I’m sure you’ve already made the switch to online banking, but what about opting for info about bills/wifi/elections via email rather than post?
  14. Student houses are renowned for being freezing as it is, but before you switch on the heating, always consider whether you could just put on an extra jumper or another pair of socks.
  15. Washing machines release tiny plastic fibres with every wash, so ration your laundry loads and air dry your clothes rather than using a tumble dryer.
  16. Ditch the face wipes (even if they’re biodegradable). It’s very hard to know what exactly is contained within face wipes so don’t risk it and stick to a reusable flannel and zero-microbead face wash.
  17. Get inventive with cleaning products. It might not be every student’s favourite thing to do but when you can’t leave your kitchen sides a health hazard for any longer, lemon, baking soda and vinegar are all great natural alternatives to harsh cleaning chemicals. Who wouldn’t want a citrus scented kitchen?

    Image: Nick Youngson for Pickpedia

  18. Despite the convenience of ready cooked food, try to steer away from this and do more cooking from scratch to save unnecessary packaging. It may take a bit longer than sticking a tray in the microwave for 2 minutes, but your body, planet and bank account will thank you.
  19. Make eco-bricks with your used plastic. However hard we try, most of us are always going to produce plastic waste. Monitor your plastic usage and start ramming plastic inside bottles using wooden spoons. This not only compacts a lot of plastic into a much smaller space than it would occupy in landfill, but also offers the perfect therapeutic activity for stressed-out students.


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AUTHOR: Lily Holbrook
MA Media & Journalism student and science sub-editor for the 20/21 academic year.

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